Unpopular Opinion: Why Fraser’s Hill Is Not Worth The Winding Road

Fraser’s Hill is a commonly visited spot for Malaysians, but my recent (and first) trip there made me realise that it would also be my last, and not just because of the winding road. (Left: Image by @packngotravelmurah / Right: @frasershillpahang)

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Nestled in the hills of Pahang lies a little village called Fraser’s Hill, also known locally as Bukit Fraser. In most of my years growing up in Malaysia, I never had the chance to visit this weekend-away hotspot, which is only about two hours from Kuala Lumpur (KL), until recently when my husband suggested that we go for a day trip. I’m not one for spontaneous day trips, and I love to plan my weekends in advance, but I decided to say yes, and lug our two kids with us.

My first thought was, “Two hours away? Can’t be that bad, and we’ll be back in time for dinner.” Which for our family was usually at 5:30pm. The car ride was pretty smooth – we had enough snacks (if you have a toddler, you’ll know how important it is to have more than enough snacks), made only one toilet stop, and enjoyed the scenic route up until Kuala Kubu Bharu. That’s when the nightmare began – it was the start of a close-to-30-kilometre ride’s worth of winding road to reach the top.

I don’t think I (or the rest of my family) have ever wanted for a car ride to come to an end so badly. I’m pretty sure at one point during our ride to the top, I looked back and found my six-year-old as pale as someone that had seen a ghost. My one-year-old profusely cried as she was feeling nauseated, and my husband – the most patient one in the family – too felt sick but clearly wasn’t about to admit that this trip was a mistake – yet.

Despite the hellish car ride, we were still grateful to have been up there, but it’s safe to say we will never do it again, and below are some of the reasons why I feel Fraser’s Hill is not worth the winding road.

Let’s talk about that long winding road

There isn’t much to say except that if there was a way to torture someone, driving up to Fraser’s Hill would undoubtedly make an excellent way. The corners were sharp and the roads were narrow. At times, it felt incredibly unsafe, especially with most drivers being inconsiderate. The climb begins from Kuala Kubu Bharu and ends at Fraser’s Hill, almost 30 kilometres, which is a long and painful ride when you have to go incredibly slowly! There were parts of our drive where I thought we’d collide with another car because no one would give way!

Landslide

And I’m not talking about the beloved song by Fleetwood Mac. On our journey to the top, we came across multiple landslides as you would if traversing up the mountains. It made me feel uneasy knowing that if it suddenly rained (which it tends to a lot these days), there may be a possibility of big rocks and earth sloping down at us.

I’m sorry, where is the cell tower?

When I became a parent, I started looking at things very differently, especially from a safety point of view. And for the most part of our ride to Fraser’s Hill, I felt very unsafe, especially during that stretch of winding road.

With narrow lanes, dangerous drivers, and landslides, I kept thinking to myself, “If we were in trouble, how could I call for help?” Because there was zero reception on any of our mobile phones. Fraser’s Hill is a pretty famous location for Malaysians to escape to, so I’d have thought they’d invest in more cell towers.

COVID-19, what?

After being in (what felt like a perpetual) lockdown, everyone really wanted to get some fresh air, and I can relate that Fraser’s Hill would be a great place to do so. This tiny and chilly enclave is surrounded by lush greenery, after all.

However, the weekend that we went up, the hill was pretty crowded. No SOPs were really in place, especially along the street where food stalls were set up. So, we drove right past, searching for a more secluded area where our kids could run amok, which was when we found the charming Ye Olde Smokehouse! While I get the need to attend to basic human needs like socialising and travelling, COVID-19 is still very much around, and we shouldn’t be complacent.

Trash galore

It irks me to see such a beautiful landscape completely ruined by trash that guilt-free visitors leave in their wake. Despite the vomit-inducing car ride I’d endured to get to Fraser’s Hill, there’s no doubt this place is a treat for the senses with its colonial architecture and endless views of majestic forest life. But, if only we were kinder to the places we visit. No pasture of green grass deserves to be polluted with masks, soiled diapers, and food wrappers to name a few.

While our first visit to Fraser’s Hill as a family will most likely be our last, I wouldn’t condemn it entirely, because my views are my own and wholly influenced by the person I am. There’s no arguing that Fraser’s Hill is a paradise for those who love nature, and on our way up, we even saw groups of cyclists enjoying their ride up and down the mountain top. So, while I may not return there any time soon (or ever), I do suggest that any Malaysian experience it at least once in their lives. There’s plenty of historic architecture to admire, trails to hike, and of course, food to enjoy.

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Emma Mallaburn
A mother of two, Emma is an avid lover of movies, Korean bbq and lululemon. Her favourite form of exercise is CrossFit, and couldn’t live without sunscreen as part of her skincare regime.